The lead up to the annual Festive Season, and Christmas Day in particular, often brings more than joy and merriment. Even with the best of intentions, this period usually involves some stress for each of us.
There will likely be moments when the concept of ‘peace and goodwill’ seems at odds with a personal reality of high tension and easily triggered reactions as we comb crowded stores to find perfect gifts and finalise the many preparations for family and social gatherings, all-the-while struggling to keep spending at levels below the stratosphere.
Stressors like these can test even the most emotionally resilient among us. To help you through this time, here are three emotionally intelligent strategies to help you lead and thrive.
- Seek to cooperate, not compete
In stressful situations, it’s tempting to become defensive and push for our own wants and needs. This reaction can set up a vicious cycle where others either strive to do the same, creating a battle, or resign and retreat – but with resentment.
Either way, discomfort, awkwardness and ill-feeling quickly replace all pleasure, peace and goodwill.
But if someone is prepared to step up and lead with a different approach, relationships can be maintained (even strengthened), and happiness ensured.
The challenge is to be that leader and take the first step by shifting your attention from your own hurt or frustration, to the needs of others.
Ask what they think, feel and want in the situation.
Resist the temptation to defend your position and really listen. Ask questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no, and pay attention to the answers given.
Listen to understand their feelings – they might just match your own!
Check your own perceptions of their statements and concerns by asking whether you’ve got it right. It’s vital to keep to the point of the issue and resist personal criticism or judgement.
Trying to see things from another’s point of view takes you safely beyond jumping to false conclusions, while providing you a better understanding of that person’s perspective, which in turn, facilitates genuine caring and connection.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Express your own thoughts, feelings and wants – as calmly and honestly as you can. Opening yourself up will set the stage for encouraging others to do the same and help take your relationships to a deeper level.
Then look for ways you can meet the needs of you both, so that neither feels overridden.
You may be surprised at just how quickly this changes the dynamics of the situation and induces a more harmonious atmosphere.
- Face conflict with caring concern.
We often fear (and so avoid) conflict because of the uncomfortableness involved in facing it. But avoidance can allow an issue to fester and grow to unmanageable proportions where the assistance of a third and neutral party is required.
For resolution and healing to occur, the focus must remain on the issue and not the personalities involved.
When disagreements occur, the key to improving the experience lies in your willingness to look for a win-win solution, as well as your ability to express yourself in a clear, open and honest way while encouraging others to do the same.
Another vital skill is to graciously receive information from others about how your actions impact them.
A healthy exchange about the gaps existing between the way things are and the way they ought to be, does not have to be personally threatening if both parties learn to handle it with caring concern.
- Engage in self-reflection: Use positive self-talk to reframe ‘negative’ situations.
Managing your own moods is one of the most important skills to develop for personal happiness.
Moods arise from a string of thoughts resulting from the way you view the world and your experience of it. And your experiences reflect your expectations and judgments of the people, places, times, things and events in your life.
In every moment we have the free will to choose how we think and feel. It’s a myth to believe someone else ‘makes us feel’ a certain way.
How we respond to another is always up to us, and blaming someone else for our feelings is a cop-out, an avoidance of self-responsibility.
Engaging in self-reflection to see how else you might view those experiences can help to reframe your perceptions from negative or unwise to learning and growth points.
Talk to a friend you can trust to be honest with you, or seek coaching or counselling if you struggle with this.
Practicing positive self-talk and learning how to step back and consider alternate ways of viewing situations are important skills in maintaining resilience and managing your moods.
Listen to your daily self-talk. If you’re giving yourself negative messages, make an effort to reframe them by finding the good that can result from the situation.
For example, if your internal messages are, I’m tired; I’m anxious or I’m not good at this, change them to, I’m energized by this challenge, I’ve done something like this before and I’m sure I can do this too, or I can get help and improve.
The simple practice of pausing to take a few deep breaths when you feel anxious can be a helpful technique for becoming calmer, more centred and more resilient in the moment.
And the practice of changing your self-talk rewires your brain and makes future situations easier to manage.
If you’d like help with any of this, please connect with me.